Excuse my vulgarity, but let's get real here. Think for a second about all the services bathrooms provide for us as humans. Besides being there for bodily functions, they serve us vastly beyond just that. They're there for when we're embarrassingly broken up with in a public place. They're there when we're on first dates and we're worried that there's something stuck in our teeth. They're there when we just told our parents that we got a C in Spanish or that we got a speeding ticket – for the second time this month.
Bathrooms are a place for people to just be. Where we can put ourselves back together and regain our composure. Or just bawl our eyes out for as long as need be – because it's really rude for people to ask why you were gone for so long in the bathroom. Can you imagine not being able to excuse yourself and take a trip to the loo? I surely can't. But for some, it's a reality and a damn awful one at that.
When you approach a restroom, what do you typically see? A room to the right and a room to the left. One has a designated symbol for women, and the other for men. Usually words further designating follow. And so you choose. Easy, right? Because everyone's female or male, right?
Those who identify as transgender, whether it be outside of the gender binary or within it, face a decision most take for granted every time they approach a restroom. There are several things they must take into consideration. Which restroom will I face the least danger going into? Which restroom do I feel the most comfortable going into? Which one has the longer line (giving people more chance to stare and judge)? These are just some of the few things trans folk have to think about even before they go into the bathroom.
In very small, but good, news, gender neutral restrooms are becoming slightly more popular. In the new Student Activity Center here at the University of Texas, we have at least one gender neutral restroom in the building. But beyond that, we have less than fifteen gender neutral restrooms on campus. That means that anyone searching for a gender neutral restroom might have to walk a considerable distance on our 350-acre campus just to find a place to blow their nose.
Gender neutral restrooms and family restrooms also tend to go hand-in-hand, so as we see the rise in family-specified restrooms, trans folk are typically able to use them without much hassle. But do not take my few words of optimism as peace of mind, for there is still and for a long time will be a demand for more gender neutral and/or unisex restrooms.
So the next time you spill coffee on your waiter and become flustered to the point where you “need to excuse yourself,” or you've discovered your bra strap might be twisted on a highly-sought-after date, or you just really have to pee, think for a moment about how easy it is for you to quietly leave the table and be gone for however long you'd like. I can assure you the time you spend considering your privilege would pale in comparison to the time a transgender person may need to consider the hardships that come with their oppression.